Footloose and Christianity

Last Friday on my way to work, I heard the “family friendly” review of the Footloose remake that opened this weekend on my way to work via Augusta’s WAFJ, and the reviewer was adamantly opposed to the movie because of the way he felt it portrayed Christians.

I actually had the chance to see the remake at The Big Mo, a drive in theater out on the rural edge of Aiken County, SC, not far from where I currently live. After looking for the original on Netflix and all the movie because channels I pay for and not finding it, it turned out I already OWNED the original thanks to my wife, so we also watched it Sunday, barely 12 hrs after seeing the remake.

In both movies, Rev Shaw Moore is the local preacher on the City Council of Bomont, and the father of the female lead character Ariel.

But the performances differ fairly dramatically. In John Lithgow’s portrayal in the original version, Rev Moore preaches quite a bit of Hellfire and brimstone regarding dancing, rock music, sex, and drugs, but he is also the voice of reason when his parishioners want to burn Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five at the local library. In the remake, Randy Quaid’s Rev Shaw Moore is the same Hellfire and brimstone preacher, without the reasonableness of the book burning scene, which has been completely removed from the remake.

The reviewer for WAFJ thinks that this is somehow portraying Christianity in a negative light. I posit that the two portrayals of Rev Moore were in line with public perception of Christianity at the time – and we Christians have ourselves to blame for the fairly strictly negative way our Savior is portrayed in the new movie.

So what has changed since the 1984 release of the original movie and the nearly 30 year later release of the new one?

Christians will probably point to less God in our schools or some other perceived assault on Christianity, but I believe that a more objective look at the situation will reveal two major changes in America over the last 30 years that led to this shift in public perception:

1) The rise of the so-called “Moral Majority” and Christian leaders’ involvement in State and National politics and

2) the rise of the Christian counterculture

In the mid and later 80s, after a “successful” purge of “liberals” from the Southern Baptist Convention in the late 70s, SBC leaders such as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, and some US Senator named Al Gore began rising to prominence in the national political arena pushing for Congress to regulate rap, rock, and other musics and entertainments. In 1994, this rise – and subsequent marriage to the Republican Party – of evangelical Christian leaders became cemented in the public perception with the out-of-the-blue Republican takeover of Congress, led in part by then-Congressman and now Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich. The marriage was thus consummated when these religious and political leaders began crucifying sitting President Bill Clinton for having the audacity to cheat on his wife (current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) by getting a blowjob from an intern in the Oval Office – which was and is simply the President’s formal office in the house he currently lives in. And then, of course, you have the entire Presidency of George W Bush and his (not so) “compassionate conservatism”.

What did the public see in these Christian leaders? Not very much Christ, that’s for dang sure. They saw a whole lot of “morality” being crammed down their throats via legislation such as the Federal “Defense of Marriage Act”, a whole lot of end-of-the-world doomsaying any time a judge allowed gays to get married (which at least a few mainstream Protestant denominations, such as the Episcopalians, allow in their churches)… and not very much love.

At the same time that all of this (and much more) was going down politically, a “Christian” counter culture began to rise. I don’t recall which came first, but I do know that by the late 80s, artists such as Michael W Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Jars of Clay, Audio Adrenaline, Newsboys, and DC Talk were getting a lot of attention in church circles. These acts have only gone on to sell in the neighborhood of 100 MILLION albums combined. But a true “counter culture” can’t be just music. At the same time these artists were beginning to rise, “family friendly” (code for “Christian plus a few secular songs OCCASSIONALLY”) radio began to rise, as well as “family friendly” movies and Christian books of every possible stripe. Yes, you can even find “Christian” supernatural romances in 2011. In addition to these entertainment options, more and more businesses and (obviously) private schools began advertising themselves as “Christian”, and indeed, some megachurches or prominent members thereof run very successful businesses in virtually every town and industry.

By 2011, it has become entirely possible to raise a child from conception through death at old age and never once leave the comforting cocoon of the “Christian” counter culture – and apparently was getting this way even in the late 90s, when Steven Curtis Chapman penned “The Change”. What should have been a wake up call was simply devoured in the latest consumer entertainment feast.

It is a matter of the chicken and the egg, but with the existence of this counter culture and its many adherents, more and more Christians began to remove themselves more and more from “the world” – even while proclaiming their desire to “reach” it.

And as these Christians began to remove themselves from what they saw as bad influences, the so-called “cycle of failure” began to revolve faster and faster. Christians saw “evil”, fled from it, the evil doesn’t have any light to counteract it, so grows darker. Christians see the increasing darkness, and flee further, and the cycle repeats ad nauseum.

Thus, while Christianity – and much more importantly, Christianity’s Savior – was seen as fairly benign or even a good thing, if not THE good thing, at my birth in the early 80s, before my 30th birthday Christianity has become seen as a joke, at best, and an outright menace to the very people Christ commanded us to love.

Thus, the rise of both the Christian counterculture and its marriage to the GOP has led us from John Lithgow’s Rev Shaw Moore to Randy Quaid’s.

And it is entirely our fault as Christians.

What should we do about this? I have some ideas, but I’d like to hear yours. Sound off in the comments or via one of my social media feeds. Let’s have a dialogue. Maybe later I’ll write a follow up post with some of the better ideas I see and hear.

Herman Cain and Ron Paul on the Housing Bubble

Last night, an image quickly surfaced on Facebook of two quotes on the housing bubble, one from Herman Cain in 2005 and one from Ron Paul said to have been in 2001.

I asked my friend John Jay Myers, one of the first people I saw to post the pic, to provide evidence of Cain’s quote, and he got it to me today.

First, here’s the image in question:

And here is the relevant passage from Herman Cain in 2005. The full piece can be seen here. The passage is the 7th-9th paragraphs (the emphasized bits are in the image):

While none of the newscasters said the sky was falling, they did their best to pretend. When Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan came out and said the economy was strong, CBS did man on the street interviews to pretend the opposite was true. On May 3, ABCs Betsy Stark predicted the new job numbers would be out soon and the only question was how bad a hit the economy would take. When those numbers came in higher than predicted, nobody at ABC seemed to recall the networks cloudy crystal ball.

I wish that was all. Its not. You could write a book just on how poor the coverage has been of the alleged housing bubble. The media have been foretelling a massive bust in housing prices for months now. On May 19, ABCs Elizabeth Vargas said: The run up in housing prices is now beginning to look something like the boom in Internet stocks, and we know what happened there. That kind of ignorance makes homeowners fear that their most expensive possession could turn worthless overnight.

That wont happen. No matter how much the media compared Bush to Herbert Hoover last year, this is not the Great Depression. Now theyve given up on that failed comparison, but their coverage of the president has gotten worse.

Wouldn’t want to be accused of using “misleading or inaccurate” statements about Herman, now would we?

NaNoWriMo 2011

National Novel Writing Month is something one of my twitter friends has been talking up for quite a while, and I’m leaning towards being a participant this year.

The basic idea is ti write an entire 50K word manuscript in a single 30 day month. MY idea for participating is that it will give me something go distract myself from politics with every November. As a recovering politic-addict, I figure NaNoWriMo could be my equivalent to a smoker’s chewing gum – and who knows, MAYBE I could actually make money at it (unlike politics)?

Because i’m getting into it nearly at the last second, i’m thinking this year’s novel will be eerily similar to people who have known me since Jan 1, 2000 – where the story will open up. Most names will be changed, some places will be, and some situations will be added or enhanced to turn it from ‘autobiography’ to ‘fiction’, and i’m hoping it will be an entertaining read once done.

So a former blogger, who used to write 2k word posts daily fairly easily, is taking on the NaNoWriMo challenge? Should be fairly easy, right? Well, remember: i’ll still have a wife, 3 pets, a full time job, and other factors to consider. But i’m hoping things go smoothly.

I’ll let you know in November. 😀

BookSneeze Review: With: Reimagining The Way You Relate to God by Skye Jethani

Skye Jethani’s With: Reimagining The Way You Relate to God was my first book through the BookSneeze review program, and I’m honestly glad I found the program and this book on it. You see, this is one of the more mind blowing books I’ve ever read – which is saying something, considering I’ve read books such as Ted Dekker’s Circle Series and most books Bill Myers has put out.

If you want to quit reading this review now, I’ll leave you with this: READ THIS BOOK. You will NOT regret it.

Some details:

Mr. Jethani – an editor of a leading Christian magazine – uses the first half of the book to talk about the four basic ways most of us relate to God:

Life UNDER God is basically what I call “Talibaptists”, though Mr. Jethani never gets CLOSE to using that word. These people believe that we must live life strictly by the Bible and that if we don’t, we’re doomed.

Life OVER God essentially uses the Bible as a divine “how to” manual, nothing more, nothing less. These are the people that keep the “self help” authors in business.

Life FROM God sees God as a divine bank account that can never run out. This is the consumer culture variant of Christianity.

Life FOR God sees life as a mission. These people will go to Outer Mongolia at the drop of a hat – and still miss the point.

In each of the first four chapters, Mr. Jethani delves into each of these first four ways of relating to God, and shows both their strengths (yes, they have them), and their critical weaknesses.

In the remainder of the book, Mr. Jethani describes a life WITH God, what it looks like, and why it is the epitome of a Biblical understanding of our relationship to God. While I’ve tweeted a lot of amazing quotes from this book, you’ll just have to read it to see them for yourself, as well as the remaining treasure trove I simply couldn’t tweet out for many reasons.

In my Kindle edition, the appendices began at roughly 80% or so, and included both a discussion on some “how to pray” techniques as well as a brief discussion guide for the book. Overall, the only weakness that I saw – though it was a bit glaring – was that when I hit the appendices, I was still looking for a more succinct summation chapter than the one we got.

Overall, a VERY strong book, and I would give it a 5/5 without any hesitation at all.

Now time for some legalese:

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

It Is Official… x2!

So I told work this morning, and therefore I can put it out publicly now: I am leaving my job at the Savannah River Site outside of Augusta Ga in two weeks for a *SENIOR* Software Developer position at a leading anesthesiologist billing firm.

But that’s not all folks!

In addition to a bit of upheaval at work, I’m also continuing to slow down my (at least official) political efforts. Over the weekend, I resigned as the Legislative Director of the Libertarian Party of Georgia. While remaining committed to the cause of Liberty, I simply do not have the time to devote to official activity, at least at the level that said activity needs to be worked.

So I’m choosing instead to spend what time I have with my wife and persuing other interests – such as reading Mere Churchianity by Michael Spencer, which I HIGHLY recommend. I’ve also joined a review program from Thomas Nelson Publishers, where they send me free books in exchange for online reviews both here and at I’m currently reading With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God by Skye Jethani, and I’ll post my review once I’m finished. So far, that book is VERY impressive, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Mr. Jethani – the senior editor of Leadership Journal – has to say.

Requisite Sept 11 Post

Where was I? I was an 18 yo kid living at home while going to college at the end of the summer that began with his HS graduation. To this day, that summer is probably the “iconic” summer of my life – though this past summer, 10 yrs later, certainly rivaled it. I had gone to Cedar Point, seen the very plane JFK’s body was flown to DC in, in which LBJ was sworn in in, went hiking at Amicalola, gone to my first NSCS Leadership Summit, where I had a chance to drive a 2001 yellow Mustang convertible for the weekend (and gone to Universal Islands of Adventure for a few hrs)…

… and on Sept 11 itself, around 8:30 in the morning, I was driving down I-75 from Cartersville to Kennesaw, with a 12 pack of Mello Yello in the passenger seat, intending to get what I then called “pseudo drunk” over a breakup over the weekend from a girl I had been dating for the later part of the summer. (BTW: Drink 12 mello yellos back to back – guarantee the guy standing next to you won’t be able to tell you’re not drunk! ;))

I was listening to 104.7 The Fish Atlanta, as I did every morning in that era, when news reports came on of a plane hitting the World Trade Center. My honest-to-God thought was that it was a little Cessna, that it happens relatively often, and that it wasn’t THAT big of a deal – about the same as any other small plane crash, which were relatively common in North Ga at the time.

I got to school/ work – already one and the same place – and learned the full magnitude of what was transpiring. When I got up to 5th floor of KSU’s Science Building, which then held the offices of the CSIS Dept, we began reading online what was happening – then the websites came down, as the traffic was simply too much for the servers to handle. So we scrambled around to try to find a TV, which we set up in the break room.

At 11:00, I went to class, as they had not been cancelled yet. It was Dr. Meg Murray’s CSIS 3600, Systems Analysis and Design (mostly a DB oriented course), but by then most people knew what had happened. Dr. Murray pretty simply told everyone that there would be no class today, because no one could possibly focus on class. So I went back to CSIS and did the last official thing I did for the day: I put up a post noting that school had been cancelled for the day and explaining why on the bulletin board that we ran at the time for the Programming 1 and 2 courses.

After that, I walked around campus for a bit, where many others were already organizing trips to NYC to help. Then I went home. Late that night, I wrote a piece (on paper, as I hadn’t discovered blogging yet and wouldn’t for nearly a decade) that concluded with the lines “May God have mercy on the souls of those who did this – because I sure as hell don’t.”

I actually found that piece at my parents’ house a year or two ago, and remember reading it and reliving writing it. I’m glad to say I’ve matured a bit in the intervening decade, and while I still have no sympathy for the actual attackers of that day, I’ve come to realize my and our role in producing them, and I’ve begun to actually try to end the cycle, to what degree I can. Granted, I can’t change an entire culture, but I can change my own heart, and maybe I can even appeal to yours. One of the grave problems of that day was that our culture had been demonized in the Muslim culture of the era, and in turn their culture has now been demonized in ours. For some insight into what Amnerican Muslims are REALLY like, check out Heck, instead of relying on Bil OReilly, Ann Coulter, and Glenn Beck to tell you what Muslims believe, how about picking up a copy of the Koran and READING IT FOR YOURSELF? I did, about a month ago, and so far it has been an intriguing read – not at all what I had been taught to think it said. (BTW: Many might want to do the same project with the Bible… #justsaying…)

Finally, I want to leave you with a couple of links that I found genuinely interesting/ profound/ sad today:

Jonathan Merritt’s post in Q


Why They Hate Us

and this quote, which Merritt uses a piece of:

The silence of most Christians and the giddy enthusiasm of a few, as well as the ubiquity of flags and patriotic extravaganzas in allegedly evangelical churches, says to me that American Christians may look back upon our response to 9/11 as our greatest Christological defeat. It was shattering to admit that we had lost the theological means to distinguish between the United States and the kingdom of God. The criminals who perpetrated 9/11 and the flag-waving boosters of our almost exclusively martial response were of one mind: that the nonviolent way of Jesus is stupid. All of us preachers share the shame; when our people felt very vulnerable, they reached for the flag, not the Cross.

September 11 has changed me. I’m going to preach as never before about Christ crucified as the answer to the question of what’s wrong with the world. I have also resolved to relentlessly reiterate from the pulpit that the worst day in history was not a Tuesday in New York, but a Friday in Jerusalem when a consortium of clergy and politicians colluded to run the world on our own terms by crucifying God’s own Son. -Will Willimon, presiding bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church

I Need Your Help

So two weeks from right now I’ll be on board the Carnival Fascination somewhere in the Atlantic between Jacksonville FL and the Bahamas. It should (and will) be a life of luxurious nothingness for 5 days and 4 nights where my biggest worry will be do I want the lobster or the filet mignon. I’ve been looking forward to this cruise since BEFORE we booked it, and the closer it gets, the more I’m looking forward to it.

But before I leave, I have a slight #firstworlddilemma.

My wife has given me a $30 cap on books to buy for my Kindle for the week.

So I’ve started using my Amazon Wish List as I see things I would like to pick up eventually, and now I pose the question to you, the reader:

Please use the following poll to tell me your Top 5 from this list. If you have any others you think I may enjoy, please feel free to let me know either in the comments here or through the various social media sites you know me from. You can click here to see the wish list directly, with links to the Amazon pages for the books in question.

[poll id=”2″]

Bachmann: “People are worried about… the rise of the Soviet Union”

Apparently Michelle Bachmann thinks it is currently 1947 or so, rather than 2011, as she outright said the quote in the title in an interview with the American Center for Law and Justice’s Jay Sekulow yesterday.

Here is the relevant 40 second or so clip from the 30 minute show, with Jay’s question and Bachmann’s response:

Michelle Bachmann: People are worried about… the rise of the Soviet Union

What I find interesting about this is that a) the Soviet Union died roughly 2 decades ago, before I was even out of elementary school. Bachmann was an adult by then and probably celebrated this event along with pretty much every other American of the era. In other words, it isn’t exactly unknown – nor should it be, for someone vying for the number 1 foreign policy job in the entire Nation.

But even more interesting is the absolute, utter SILENCE from “conservatives”. You know, the same people who gave one Barack Obama such hell about 4 years ago or so when he said that the US had 57 states.

Call me crazy, but I think knowing who our enemies are – or even could be – is a bit more important than ANY other issue. You cannot successfully defend our nation from “all enemies, foreign and domestic” if you have no clue that some of them only exists in your (clearly vivid) imagination these days.

Been A Fun Summer

Summer is nearly over, but it has been one of the better ones since my school days – if low key (which, as I get older, is good ;)).

It started out with me finally living with my wife again, after two months of separation. Not that we were “separated” in the marital sense – far from it. But we had been physically separated due to me starting a new job in Aiken and her still finishing her old one in Leesburg. Memorial Weekend, both sets of parents and both of my brothers came out and we moved our chunk of Leesburg to the apartment in Aiken that I had been living spartanly in for two months.

After everyone left, we began what has become an almost weekly occurence: We spent some time at a movie theater. Over the summer, we’ve seen 13 movies, and I’ve seen an additional 2 if you count April. On the first weekend of June, we began going out to the Monetta Drive in Theater, on the far side of Aiken County from us. There, you could see 2 movies for the price of one matinee virtually anywhere else, and typically at least one of the two is brand new that week, with the other usually being only a week or two old.

So far this summer, we’ve seen:

Hangover 2
XMen First Class
Kung Fu Panda 2
Super 8
Green Lantern
Bad Teacher
Transformers 3
Horrible Bosses
Harry Potter 7 Part 2 (twice, for Tonya)
Captain America (twice, for me)
Cowboys and Aliens
Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Yes, we’ve been trying to save the entire movie industry in America all by ourselves this summer. 😉

In the meantime, I’ve been working steadily and Tonya even got a new part time job in Aiken to get herself out of the house for a few hours a week and meet new people.

The official “end of summer” is typically Labor Day Weekend, but with the interns at work leaving last week and this week, and schools in the area starting up either tomorrow (in GA) or next week (in SC), it “feels” like the end of summer already. But I’m still going to have some fun. We’ve still got at least 2, possibly 3 or 4, movies we want to see this summer – Fright Night and Final Destination 5, two scary movies I will actually watch with Tonya. Maybe we’ll even find some really cool new (to us) restaurants in the area, like Takosushi – an area establishment that we REALLY like.

And Labor Day Weekend?

Jacksonville. Possibly as early as that Friday, where we can re-visit the Jacksonville Zoo, which was a pretty fun trip (that part of it at least) for us a couple of years ago, before heading out Saturday on the Carnival Fascination, bound for a week long cruise to the Bahamas and back. This will be our first cruise since April 2009, and as someone who has truly come to enjoy the islands – that is simply too long. 😀

So it has been a fun summer – and it aint over yet!

‘Obama must go’

Particularly over night, with news of S&P downgrading the US debt, I’ve heard quite a few Republicans chanting “Obama must go”, including Georgia’s State Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock).

This is a quick reply I just left on Senator Rogers’ FB wall:

Mr. Senator, Who would you replace him with? A Republican? Remember: It was Reagan and Bush I, and then again Bush II, who each DOUBLED the national debt. Obama has only raised it 50%. In the current debate, Democrats want to keep spending like there is no tomorrow – and so do Republicans, by not putting forth a plan with significant cuts to DEFENSE, Medicaid, and Medicare. As you are well aware, in Georgia, Education makes up ~ 56% of the budget and Transportation and Corrections combine for roughly 25% more. In Georgia, as you yourself saw in the last couple of years, you CANNOT make significant cuts without raising taxes unless you are willing to cut those three departments in some genuinely significant manner. At the Federal level, those three departments are Defense, Medicare, and Medicaid. Like in Georgia, Democrats AND Republicans at the Federal level have gotten us into this mess – and refuse to do the politically unpopular thing of getting us out of it. In Georgia, we propose eliminating the Department of Education altogether, and allowing genuine local control of education – thus returning several BILLION dollars to the locals and to the taxpayers, where it belongs. At the National level, we propose doing something that is gaining favor more and more even in Republican circles: Bring the troops HOME, and have a *genuine* Department of DEFENSE. As always, Senator, I thank you for your time and for at least acting like you’re listening to our points.

Indeed, take a gander at this report from CATO. Notice where the bulk of the increases happen? Hint: During the first red period (Reagan and Bush 1), the debt DOUBLED. ie, it increased by 100% or more. During the first prolonged blue period (Clinton) it was relatively stable, then during the second red period (Bush 2), the debt DOUBLED again. Bush 2 took 8 years to do what his dad and his dad’s boss had done in 12. Obama is simply following the lead of Reagan and the Bushes, and following GWB’s example of shaving a term off of the time needed to double the debt.

This is not at all to excuse Obama – he genuinely needs to go. But who to replace him with? Someone who history shows is JUST as likely, if not MORE likely, than he to FURTHER increase spending?

Or someone committed to slashing spending to where we can BEGIN to actually pay on the principal of this staggering $15T in debt?

Currently, there is ONE Presidential Candidate running on just such a platform: Gary Johnson.

Thoughts and Musings From Jeff